By Michael McGarry

HAMMONTON – C.J. LaFragola could have pouted when the St. Joseph High School football team switched him from quarterback to fullback in the preseason.

Instead, he made the move and continued to help the Wildcats win football games.

The junior rushed 16 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns to propel St. Joe to a come-from-behind 21-14 win over Millville. LaFragola scored the wining touchdown on a 23-yard run up the middle with 7 minutes, 39 seconds left in the game. The score capped a 12-play, 67-yard drive that took 4:52.

St. Joe defensive back Cody Sampson intercepted two passes in the final five minutes to help preserve the win.

LaFragola entered the preseason as the Wildcats quarterback, but after a few scrimmages  sophomore Salaam Horne took over at quarterback and the 5-foot-11, 185-pound LaFragola moved to fullback.

Fans filled the home and visiting bleachers at St. Joe on a sunny day to watch this highly anticipated matchup of Cape-Atlantic League American Conference contenders with high playoff aspirations. Millville (2-1) is No. 6 in The Press Elite 11, while St. Joe (2-1) is No. 8.

St. Joe entered the game with extra motivation having lost to rival Holy Spirit 31-28 on Sept. 20. The Wildcats have won four straight state titles and aren’t used to being under .500.

Still, Millville – sparked by running back Rob Ennis -  appeared on the verge of victory. Ennis threw a 33-yard option pass to wide receiver Chris Harris to give the Thunderbolts a 7-0, first-quarter lead.

Ennis (16 carries for 121 yards) missed most of the third quarter. He tried to catch a floating pass and took a hard hit from Horne.

Ennis returned to the game and scored on his first carry. He sprinted 42 yards for a touchdown on a draw play to give Millville a 14-13 lead with 30.9 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Wildcats then began their wining drive. St. Joe had its most success running up the middle with LaFragola. The fullback had struggled in St. Joe’s first two games, running 15 times for 27 yards.

LaFragola scored his first touchdown – a 32-yard run in the first quarter – on a trap play. The winning touchdown came on the same play.

The St. Joe defense made sure the lead held up. Millville features plenty of speedy players, who can score every time they touch the ball no matter where they are on the field.

Millvile coach Jason Durham lamented his team’s mistakes. The Thunderbolts committed four turnovers. But despite the defeat, Millville established itself as a South Jersey Group V contender.

LaFragola transferred to St. Joe from Holy Spirit last season. Saturday was easily his best game as a Wildcat.

Millville 7 0 7 0 – 14

St. Joseph 7 6 0 8 – 21

FIRST QUARTER

MV – Harris 33 pass from Ennis (Young kick)

SJ – LaFragola 32 run (Ryker kick)

SECOND QUARTER

SJ – Sampson 44 run (kick blocked)

THIRD QUARTER

MV – Ennis 42 run (Young kick)

FOURTH QUARTER

SJ – LaFragola 23 run (Horne run)

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Rushing – Ennis 16-121 MV.; LaFragola 16-128, Sampson 9-80 SJ.

Passing – Rivera 7-28-2-55, Ennis 1-1-0-33 MV. Horne 3-6-1-22 SJ.

Receiving – Harris 2-42 MV., Brown 1-14 SJ.

Records – Millville 2-1; St. Joe 2-1

I've covered high school sports and variety of other events and teams - including the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the Phillies - since 1993.